Signs and Symptoms...

by - January 21, 2010

He looked the same as when we'd last met a year back. Only last year I was the one in the hospital bed and he was the guest. Now it seemed our seats and roles were reversed. I stared at his bandaged wrists. The monitors attached to his chest and limbs told me he was stable. But I knew they were lying... because those monitors never revealed the most important picture - that of his mind.

"Shan... you're an idiot. You know that, right ?" I said.

He looked up and smiled. A weak smile, by his standards. Where was the cocky, self sure, college team fast bowler I knew from years back who never shied away from a dare ? Was this the same person who'd risked suspension entering the girl's hostel all those years back to meet a girl ? I stared at his wrists again as he spoke."I don't know, Rads. I was going through a bad phase. Nothing was going my way. Everything just got to me in the end. I had a weak moment, I guess. I.."

"A weak moment ?? You have a weak moment, you go cry like that dumb old girlfriend of yours ! You have a weak moment, you get drunk and puke your guts out ! You dance in your underwear on the streets !! You don't go committing suicide, man ! You... you.. you idiot !!"

"I know. I know. The whole time I lay there after cutting my wrists, I kept thinking 'This hospitalisation is really gonna take away from the money saved for my Bali vacation this year', you know ? No A/C villas this time." We both laughed at that. ( Click )

As the staff sister came by and started noting his vitals, I turned the focus back towards a serious note. "I don't get it, man. What happened ? I mean, I'm going through a rough patch myself but I never figured you for one who'd try this stunt. Heck, I always figured I’d be the first one in the batch to try and off myself."


Shan looked up at me. " You don't know how it is, man. You medicos have a different life than us. I know you have your own worries, but our tensions too can get to us. Deadlines, the constant fear of losing your job.. it all got to me. On top of that, things haven't been that great between me and Geet recently. Constant fights, blaming each other, barely speaking to each other.."

"So How has she taken all this now ?" I ventured. I already knew, of course. I'd spoken with his wife outside the room before coming in.

He smiled. " Honestly ? Amazingly well. I mean, she's been so caring and concerned for me. It's like all those fights never existed between us. I know she loves me, I guess somewhere along the way, in between work and life, we'd just forgotten to care for each other. Thinking back now, I can't imagine I put her through all this pain and hurt, not once caring for what we have. Man, Geet is so gonna make me pay once I get out of here, huh ?" He said grinning. ( Click )

"As well she should. You better cancel any plans for buying that sedan and start thinking Swarowski necklaces if you don't want her to kick your ass."

"Haha.. ya, I guess so. Eep !! That must be her plan. Bankrupt me and then kill me. Hahaha. Does Swarowski make fake diamonds cause there ain't no way I can afford the real stuff ?"

"Hey, you're welcome to my savings. I mean, after all. It's not as if I have a girlfriend or wife to come home to and chew my ears off with her incessant chatter." We laughed at the nurse's mocking cross expression at our sexist remarks and watched as she left, our eyes lingering on her pretty legs till they disappeared out the door. We looked at each other, smiled and raised our eyebrows. Hot.

Shan continued. "Constantly, I'd get belittled at work. You remember how things were back in college ? I used to enjoy being the leader.. sports, culturals, ragging, strikes ( Studies, I interrupted ? He laughed at that ). All of a sudden, after getting a job, I was a nobody. My ideas would get stolen by my superior and he'd get the praise and bonuses for them while I'd get a pittance. I'd work all these late hours and get nothing in return. In college, we could revolt, man. Out here, I have to think of my family and continue. I can't just walk away from a job saying there are million other companies waiting to hire me.."

I sighed. "Dude, we all go through it. When I first joined here, I saw myself as top dog too. I too found so many irregularities in the system and figured, I could change it. I even tried initially. But soon, I found myself being treated like dirt, man. I mean, they'd gang up on me for everything - even being of a different caste - make false stories about me and then just use it as an excuse to irritate me. Forget making mountains out of molehills, they created the damn molehills itself. Every deed I did with a good intention was twisted and made to look bad and devious. I have never faced such severe character assassination ever before as I got here and it’s driving me insane. I tried reasoning, I tried protesting... it was..is.. all in vain.

Heaven knows how many times I myself stared at my own wrists and wondered if ending it all wouldn't be a sweet relief. I still do. Mind you, all this is just from the staff. Then comes the patients. Constantly watching their suffering, knowing when it's a lost case but persevering for miracles that don't arrive, the tears of the families, having to wash it all away everytime you scrub out and then head to the next case fresh as a daisy again even though I haven't slept in the last 36 hours. There is only so much my mind can handle, man. We all deal with it in our own ways, I guess."

“Ya, you’re right, man. I guess I just kept seeing things from my own myopic point of view. Everyone has their own worries and thresholds. I just needed to get my priorities right. My cousin has always been offering me a job at his place. I’ve just been too boastful to accept it. The pay may be less but I’ll be happy working with him. Peace of mind over money anyday, man. And even if it took this foolhardy step, I guess I’m thankful this suicide was unsuccessful because it taught me the value of what matters most to me – Geet. “ ( Click )

“Did someone mention my name ?” A voice called out from behind the door. I wondered how long she’d been listening, then figured it didn’t matter as she came in. The looks that passed between them as she sat down beside him and held his hand told me what I needed to know. Love tends to get lost so easily in today’s rush hour life. Sometimes it takes a big jolt to bring it back into focus – to remind people of it’s value. Watching them chitchat, I suddenly felt self conscious... like I was the kabab mein haddi in a very tender moment between these two ‘new’ lovebirds. I got up to leave.

“Hey, man. Where are you going ? What’s the rush ?” Shan asked.

“I ain’t like you man. I ain’t got no wife or loved one to take care of me and my dinner and shower me kisses. I gotta go find some grub to last me through the night. I’m on call, remember ? Another 36 hour shift filled with blood , broken bones and bruised babies. Just so that someone can find a fault and screw me again..."

“Ok, ok.. I get the point.. I’ll send you a condolence card... thanks man, for coming by.”

“Anytime. You get well soon. I’ll come by when time permits.”

As I turned to close the door behind me, I chanced upon Geet leaning closer to kiss him. I smiled. Shan had a weak moment but he’d pull through. It was there in his words - The symptoms of a man looking forward to life . I thought back upon our conversation and the mental images I’d clicked.

'This hospitalisation is really gonna take away from the money saved for my Bali vacation this year'

‘Man, Geet is so gonna make me pay once I get out of here.’

‘The pay may be less but I’ll be happy working with him. Peace of mind over money anyday, man.’

‘I’m thankful this suicide was unsuccessful because it taught me the value of what matters most to me – Geet.’

He’d make it. With Geet beside him and the hope of a new job, he had all to look forward to in life. He just needed a wakeup call.

I turned towards the operation theatre and sighed as I spotted the next case being wheeled in. Another day had begun.

Epilogue :

“Yoohoo. Are you there ? Why are you so distracted ? You’ve hardly listened to a word I’ve said.” Geet asked. Shan turned towards her. “Huh ? Wha ? I’m sorry. I was thinking about Rads.."

“Why ? Did he say something ?”

“Ya... I’ve just been thinking back on our conversation, Geet and I’m worried about him.”

“YOU’RE worried about HIM ?” she asked incredulously. “Why ?”

“It’s just bits and pieces of what he said, Geet...” Shan said, his mind recollecting the words.

I'm going through a rough patch myself.

I always figured I’d be the first one in the batch to try and off myself.

I have never faced such severe character assassination ever before as I got here and it’s driving me insane.

It was..is.. all in vain.

Heaven knows how many times I myself stared at my own wrists and wondered if ending it all wouldn't be a sweet relief. I still do.

I ain’t got no wife or loved one to take care of me.

“I don’t know Geet.” He said finally. “It was just there in his words... the signs of a man with nothing to look forward to in life desperately hanging on.”

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19 comments

  1. Felt like watching a movie.. Very emotionally touching.. I could visualize it.. The Doc is Back.. Yaay

    I have really lot of feeling.. someday i will learn to type them as words.

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  2. Yeh the doc is back :)

    N when I was reading i was clicking exactly what Shan had clicked.. every one goes through rough patches right? It's the ability to hang on despite the circumstances that sets u apart.. Good one :)

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  3. Thanks Quakeboy.. will remain irregular for awhile, I'm afraid till exams end. This was just an idea that I needed to express.

    Dhanya, Again thanks.. That was the point I had started with.. that we all have our personal hells.. some ppl just prefer to hide it while others reveal it more plainly.. this seemed as apt a way to show it as possible

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  4. god! i had my pulse racing

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  5. that's awesome...
    you never lacked the flow of emotions...was expecting a masterpiece and 'am not at all disappointed...

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  6. Manjit.. gee. Thanks man. I didn't know it was that good :)

    Sir, thanks.. felt this blog needed a story and I needed a break too.. it's been a long time since i last wrote anything :)

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  7. nice one roshan! nice contrast of tones between the characters.

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  8. Your story keeps playing in my head..much different than all i ve read before.. loved it as always :)

    btw, how u doing?

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  9. I'm doing alright.. going through a low phase.. this story was kind of a way to vent it all out..

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  10. hey!
    i think dats a very good piece you have here.
    being a surgeon myself, i could relate perfectly with the nerve racking, bone breaking duty hours at the hospital..
    'i'm doing alright' is what we spontaneosly come up with even when sometimes we want to get out of the maze of sick patients and retire into our own world.

    you may be sick , hearbroken, missing someone or just down..but then all u say is i'm doing good and smile down at the next patient.

    this is the first time i am reading ur blog.keep them coming

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  11. You have written after a relly long time, but I guess it has been worth the wait.

    What started off as a remniscent moment gradually not just paved way for a messege to all who think that theirs is the roughest patch of all, but also took the shape of a poetry towards the end - one of the ways in which pain can be prtrayed, sometimes.

    I remember growing up listening to my Mother tell me that no matter how dark it may seem now, a dawning day always lies in wait to welcome each one of us. She had picked a line from a movie and would always say it to me when I would approach her wth my then "endless sorrows." She would say, "Duniya mein kitna ghum hai, mera ghum toh kitna kam hai." And, you know what, it magically works even till today even though the person who embedded this line into my head has quite given up on her own self today. I wish she would still believe in it. Anyways!

    Good Work, Doc!!!! Kudos :)

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  12. Aksharaa, that's one of the worst burdens we face honestly.. having to restart our emotions with every patient.. face sickness every moment of every day and then just wash it away the moment we step out of the hospital..

    Ankita, Ya, it's been awhile. Been going through my own hells. I'm glad you liked the article.. it wasnt what I started out with, but then again, I'm happy with how it turned out myself...
    Sorry to hear abt ur mom.. honestly, I think that's common for us both.. the ones who gave us pillars of support aren't really that strong these days

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  13. Brilliant...u are good! :)

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  14. am new here....ummm...its just a story isn't it????

    Beautiful...poignant, heart-warming except for the ending:-P

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  15. Reflections, sure it's fiction.. but I'd be lying if I said, there wasn't an iota of me in there..

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  16. Just loved the story. I have no other words :)

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Let me know what you think.